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Five Ways To Add A Middle Eastern Flair To Your Home

We may not be able to travel abroad just yet, but we can still explore the wonders of the Middle East at the V&A’s latest exhibition ‘Epic Iran’. The region has long provided inspiration for interior designers, from the opulence of Iran to the riads of Morocco, interiors are undeniably luxurious, full of richly layered textures and equally sumptuous colours.

Interior designer, Benji Lewis founder of ‘Zoom That Room’, is an expert on making contemporary trends your own. Here, he shares his tips on how to easily capture an essence of Middle Eastern style in your home…

Pretty Tiles:

Hand painted tiles with strong colours and scrolling designs are a fantastic way of bringing some Middle Eastern drama into any room
Don’t assume that tiles are only confined to kitchens and bathrooms – they’re a fantastic way to liven up a chimney too
Coloured tiles provide a plethora of opportunity for a rich and exciting tonal scheme – let the colours in the tiles take centre stage, combine them with a gentle tones such as ivory, tan, soft blues and mocha to create an impact
If e the colours in your ’tiled’ scheme are calmer, that doesn’t mean you should hold back on pattern; geometric designs, stripes or a small motif work well

In the image below, the tiles were included in the design of the fireplace in an Arts & Crafts period home


Rugs are synonymous with Iranian interiors and whilst these are lovely, an alternative option to add some Middle Eastern magic is with a wall mounted textile
These not only provide additional textural interest but are a fabulous talking point due to the unconventional nature of them as a piece
There’s no reason why a textile can’t be showcased alongside more traditional wall art but they also work really well by themselves
A personal favourite of mine is an antique textile mounted in a perspex frame. This cleverly combines the suggestion of a contemporary take on something traditional.
If you are interested in antique textiles, you can opt for an antique textile in the form of a footstool or a couple of cushions.
If you are keen for an ethnic injection but after something more contemporary, it is worth exploring the rich minefield of the textile houses in Chelsea Harbour.
The textile shown in this image is a 1920’s Middle Eastern bridal modesty curtain; it would likely have been a rich red when it was woven but is now faded to an old rose which complements the floral and foliate design.

Conventional Norm:

· Conventional norm suggests using only sofas and armchairs when it comes to soft seating in reception rooms. However, if the space allows for it a window seat finished with long cushion pads is an ideal place for an additional comfortable perch and gives a nod to nomadic style

· When choosing fabrics with an ethnic feel, think not only pattern but texture too

· If you use a simple small printed motif as the predominant textile, this allows for use of stronger patterns with cushions and other fabrics

· Linen is a go-to safe option for upholstery as it feels so good to sink into, but as a counterfoil to this why not shake things up and include textures like silk, velvet and wool though cushions and throws

Furniture Finishes:

Iranian décor often includes inlay detail
Materials like mother of pearl and marble can be used to embellish tables and mirrors
Similarly, this works with ornate carved wooden fretwork as seen on the table in the image below
Try to balance these intricate detail with shapes that are simpler in their form, like this glass pear and spun table lamp

Lampshade bases:

Carved bone is a material long associated with Middle Eastern décor. For a lamp base these provide textural interest as well as a plethora of tonal options and are perfect for those who veer more towards a palette of neutrals
A lovely contrast to the creamy/soft grey tones of a carved bone lamp base is a colourful patterned gathered lampshade
Consider going the extra mile and giving your lamp base additional ‘ooh la la’ by putting it on a carved pedestal. For example, in the image below this antique carved wooden example is from a temple.
Being a natural material, accessorise a tabletop around your carved bone lamp with other earthy textures. For example, a raffia basket filled with dried gourds and an antique glass candlestick creates a big impact